Something to Read When You're Bored

“Prop 8 – The Musical”
December 3, 2008, 4:58 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

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Finally, a video of my dance troupe!
October 2, 2008, 2:00 pm
Filed under: Dancing, Entertainment, Life

Just about a week ago my swing dancing troupe did a performance for a mountaineers club dance. We did the routine ‘Everybody Eats’, and I was a last minute addition (there turned out to be an extra lead), so I got to perform the routine after not practicing it at all for about 3 months. Here’s the video:

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The Taming of the Storage Unit
September 22, 2008, 9:47 am
Filed under: Life, Random | Tags:

Talk about an anticlimactic comeback topic, but maybe my life is a tad anticlimactic right now.  After all, I spent Saturday cleaning out my storage unit.  I know this isn’t really the most riveting thing to read about, but I think the before and after photos are kind-of entertaining:

Okay, maybe they don’t look all that different, but you’ll notice that in the first picture there are boxes and junk and things jumbled on top of one another almost to the ceiling, making it impossible to even step into the storage space, and in the second one, everything is neatly stacked and organized and you can even walk inside to reach the shelves at the back – something I haven’t been able to do for at least the last year and a half.  So in some ways, this is pretty momentous

I also decided to get rid of an impressive amount of stuff, which you can see stuffed into my old car:

And, to give you an appreciation of how much stuff I had to sift through, here’s a shot of what the storage room looked like while I was in the midst of sorting everything out:

I found some odd stuff in there too:  potting soil, a pair of ski boots (I don’t ski), a table I didn’t think I owned anymore, a disco ball, a box full of random liquor, a Duff man costume, a sketch book from my high school art class, and snow tires for a car I don’t own anymore.  And of course lots of flotation devices and christmas decorations.  But all this will probably be nothing compared to when I finally tackle the spare room:

China! Part 2
May 24, 2008, 8:01 am
Filed under: Travel

I think my stories from China are going to have to happen a little out of order because I need to write about today while it’s still fresh in my mind. Today we decided to go whitewater rafting and it was quite the experience. Expecting something similar to the guiding I’ve done back home, we got dressed in clothes that would do well getting wet in the river and bagged up all of our stuff in ziploc bags in case they didn’t have a dry bag. I even had carabiners to rig my bag into the boat if necessary. Feeling pretty well prepared, we took off from the hotel, following one of the staff who was sent to show us how to get to the bus station. He pointed us to the right bus and waved goodbye as he walked away.

On the bus my cousin and I seemed to be the only people who spoke english and we were definitely the only westerners. We bumped along for about an hour as the bus haphazardly passed pretty much every vehicle on the road, using the horn liberally to warn them of our presence, all the while listening to very loud chinese pop music skipping on an evidently scratched CD. We also got to watch the girl sitting in front of me have a loud argument with her seat-mate and generally bug all of the people she appeared to be traveling with. It seemed a little odd that everyone else was dressed in normal street clothes, but I just figured we were better prepared than they were.

When we finally arrived at what turned out to be the take-out, it looked more like a large creek than a real river. We got off the bus and found someone sort-of official looking person who took us over to the ticket window where we turned in the receipt from our hotel for actual tickets. After that we were told (in very broken english) to wait about half an hour for the bus that would take us to the put-in. Meanwhile all the Chinese people were changing into more river appropriate clothing and putting their belongings into storage lockers, which we were heavily encouraged to rent for our things. At first we thought that really wasn’t necessary, but when Amanda decided to buy a pair of nylon shorts we opted to rent a locker so we could leaver her dry shorts there. Turns out that was a good call. As we were waiting the half hour for the bus, we took a closer look at the tickets and noticed that the picture on them showed small boats with just 2 people per boat and no paddles. We asked our semi-english speaker about this and he confirmed that there were in fact no guides and no paddles. Interesting.

We finally got into the bus to take us to the put-in. It was a crowded little mini-bus on a bumpy dirt road with hairpin turns and half the people standing up, and of course Chinese techno blaring on the sound system. We get to the top, and joined in the mad scramble of chinese people claiming life jackets, helmets, and knee and elbow pads. Once we were decked out like Japaese reality TV show contestants, we really began to wonder just what we’d gotten ourselves into. Obviously we didn’t sign any sort of safety waiver and the two giant boards that might’ve been explaining safety guidelines were entirely in Chinese.

As we were waiting in line to get into boats (at the back, the Chinese are pretty pushy) we saw the beginning of the run – it starts off with about a 5 foot drop that turns into steep chute about 30 feet long. It really was more creek-sized than river sized but it looked sort-of like a disneyland ride, only without the safety regulations and a lot wilder looking than anything I’ve ever seen at Disneyland. Eventually we made it to the front of the line and managed to let a few other people go ahead of us so that we could end up in one of the self-bailing boats (I’d noticed some people scooping water out of their boats before the trip even begun and I didn’t want that to be us).

So once in the boat we waited in a big pool surrounded by about 50 boats full of chinese people in flourescent life jackets and bright yellow helmets, while guides (or whoever they were) pulled one boat at a time through the little gateway at the end of the pool and sent them down the chute. It was right about then that the rain started to really pick up. I suppose I should’ve mentioned earlier that we decided to go rafting in spite of forecasts predicting rain. We figured it would still be plenty warm and we would end up getting wet anyway. But the rain that started while we were waiting in the boat was more like a monsoon. We were already a little damp from putting on somewhat soggy life jackets and whatnot, but about 30 seconds into the downpour we were soaked through. And I think it was when we were just a few boats away from getting sent down the chute that we first heard the thunder. Oh, and we finally saw a sign with some safety insructions in English. It said hold onto the rail when you go down the chute (we think rail meant handle – there were handles inside the boats) and ‘be careful!’

So down the chute we went – first through the vertical drop, where it felt miraculous that our boat didn’t flip over and that we were both still in the boat at all, then flying down the chute into a roaring white mess that completely swamped the boat. From there it was a series of bumpy turns and drops that completely filled our boat with water about once every 10 or 15 seconds. The water was cool but not too cold, and the rain became pretty much irrelevant since we were getting just as wet from the ride anyway. The thunder was still a little worrisome, but when we saw lightning it was fairly far away and there wasn’t much we could do about it anyway.

So basically the ride continued for about an hour and a half, with more drops, more chutes, and no downtime, except for the occasional clog when our boat would get jammed in with another one and start a pileup. Those got pretty entertaining too. I have to say they put together a pretty awesome ride, I’m tempted to go again before we have to leave town, it was so much fun. It was also cool to discover that when everyone is screaming down crazy rapids, language barriers tend to dissolve and it’s easy to make friends just by helping people get unstuck or helping to tow them to the front of the next big pool for another crazy drop.

There were also people stationed at various points along the route to help when people got stuck, and a sweep boat with two guides making sure no-one got left behind. Also stationed along the route were at least 30 photographers all shouting ‘hello!’ over and over again – the one english word all Chinese people seem to know, which they attempt to use to communicate all sorts of things, but which mostly means ‘look over here!’ When we finally finished we were mobbed with touts all trying to drag us over to buy photos from them. We took our time shopping for the best shots while we waited for the bus and finally picked four which they burned onto CDs for us at 10 yuan apiece. I’ve loaded them onto my flick’r page, so you should be able to see them no the left.

Alright, that was pretty much the extent of our adventure – there wasn’t even loud music on the bus ride back into town, but it was a really awesome day, I’ll be surprised if the rice terraces tomorrow are able to compare…

p.s. I really need to go back and edit this at some point, but saving changes takes forever from this machine, so it may need to wait until I’m back in the states. Apologies for all my typos and long-windedness!

China! Part 1
May 22, 2008, 1:06 am
Filed under: Travel | Tags: ,

I’m sitting in the lobby of a hotel in Yangshuo – a tiny little town in Southwest China – and I’m about a week into my trip, so already there’s lots to tell. Before I get too into that though, there are a few other life events worth mentioning that happened since my last post:

1 – really fun weekend trip to Chicago with Ari. I’ve posted the photos on my Flickr site, which I would link to here but I’m using a proxy server to get around the great firewall of China, so the functionality of the wordpress editing screen is limited. The link on the left of this page should get you there though if you’re interested.

2 – My Birthday! I turned 28, but that was more than a month ago so it’s kinda old news at this point. Ari flew us down to Oregon for the weekend though, which made it extra special, and then my whole family came up to Seattle so we could go out to dinner.

3 – My dance troupe was in that crazy dance performance, Ooh La La, that I mentioned here quite a long time ago. It was loads of fun and there are photos of that too, but I’ll have to add them later – firewall and whatnot.

4 – I ran the Vancouver Half Marathon and got a new PR! I’m still pretty excited about that. I set a goal time 2 hours and 19 minutes, which I thought was pretty ambitious, but I beat it by more than 3 minutes and finished in 2:15:26! Michele totally rocked the race too, finishing in 2:07:59 (I think). My flickr page has those photos up too.

5 – This one is pretty huge – My sister had a baby!!! I have a brand new niece, and she’s completly perfect, adorable and wonderful. I would tell you more about her, but Meg’s pretty sensitive about her privacy, so you can just ask me and I’ll tell you all about her!

Okay, I think that’s everything major that went on before I left for China, so now on to the trip! I flew into Shanghai on the 11th and stayed for almost a week with my cousin who is living there. She and her husband were awesome hosts and they showed me some of their favorite spots around the city. Within walking distance of their cute little apartment (with the bathroom in the kitchen) we went to a super nice european style cafe (Amy’s a little burnt out on chinese food at this point), to a beautiful salon for pedicures, and along one of the city’s best shopping districts. It wasn’t until later that evening that we learned there had been a huge earthquake in Sichuan province. We weren’t able to learn much about it on the news that night, the only image they showed was of a news reporter standing in front of a broken pane of glass (we suspected this was the government sheltering the population). The next morning after I answered emails reassuring friends that I was unaffected by the earthquake, I was able to learn more about the damage from articles online. I reeled when I read about the growing death toll and about how high it was expected to climb. I wondered if maybe my cousin Amanda and I could change our travel plans and go volunteer to provide earthquake relief in the affected area but it sounded like the government would prefer to keep foreigners out of the region. (Since then the government declared national mourning for all the victims of the earthquake and for three days all entertainment industry businesses were closed while the country grieved.)

In spite of the tragedy, I was still in Shanghai and there was still lots I wanted to see, so on Tuesday I went to see the old town neighborhood with its amazing gardens, I made it to the top of the pearl tower and saw the layout of the whole city, and then walked along the river promenade in Pudong where we could see the famous Bund strip across the water. It was all pretty exciting, especially mixed in with all the general novelty of being in China – the crazy driving where you feel lucky to step out of a taxi still alive, all the touts in toristy areas who have no qualms getting in your face about buying something, clotheslines proudly displaying chinese underwear all over the city, and generally just a lot of weird sights, smells and noises. Amy also took me to a giant, 3-story mall where you can get the best deals on knockoffs and souvenirs. I have a real weakness for Sportsac knockoffs (so many cute patterns!) and I really feel that I exercised great self control by purchasing only 2 bags.

On my third day in Shanghai my cousin Amanda arrived, and I got to try my hand at surviving the subway system both unscathed and unrobbed. The fun part was taking the Maglev train to and from the airport – it goes about 450 km/h and you get some interesting views of the city. We spent most of Mandy’s first full day in China shopping again – better to buy stuff in shanghai so we can leave it at Amy’s house – then we took the night train up to Beijing. It was a pretty fun adventure sleeping on the train – especially when we woke up to a lightning storm in the middle of the night. Beijing was a little overwhelming at first, but we found a nice guesthouse on an awesome street in a hutong neighborhood just north of the forbidden city. We spent a couple days taking in the main sights of Beijing – Tianamen Square, the Forbidden City, Lama Temple, and a beautiful park with a big lake. We also managed to get tickets to an acrobatics show, which turned out to be an interesting display of some very impressive skills mixed in with a touristy atmosphere, some cheezy choreography, and bizarre costume choices. Our last day in Beijing we spent hiking on the great wall, which was absolutely incredible, but also exhausting. I think we covered about a 3 mile length of the wall (through 27 guard towers) and it took us a little over 4 hours. The views were spectacular, the length of the wall is just mind-boggling, and the climbs are long, steep, irregular, and frequently crumbling underfoot with no enclosing walls on the sides. The wall is also well-staffed with entreprenurial locals who don’t mind following you for hours if they think you might buy something. It gets pretty tiring after the first hour, then you learn to just ignore touts for water, books, postcards, t-shirts, and beer. By the end of the trip we were more preoccupied with the treacherous terrain than the splendor of it all, and we were seriously worn out, but it definitely made for a very memorable experience.

Alright, that’s enough rambling about the first week of my trip, I’ll write later about the adventures we’ve had since then in southwest China!

Rejection Rejection
April 9, 2008, 10:17 am
Filed under: Random

Herbert A. Millington
Chair – Search Committee
412A Clarkson Hall
Whitson University
College Hill, MA 34109

Dear Professor Millington,

Thank you for your letter of March 16. After careful consideration, I regret to inform you that I am unable to accept your refusal to offer me an assistant professor position in your department.

This year I have been particularly fortunate in receiving an unusually large number of rejection letters. With such a varied and promising field of candidates it is impossible for me to accept all refusals.

Despite Whitson’s outstanding qualifications and previous experience in rejecting applicants, I find that your rejection does not meet my needs at this time. Therefore, I will assume the position of assistant professor in your department this August. I look forward to seeing you then.

Best of luck in rejecting future applicants.


Chris L. Jensen

The Story of Stuff
April 7, 2008, 12:24 pm
Filed under: Interesting

My coworker just sent me this video about the system of consumption in the US – how it works, why it exists, and why it’s really bad. There’s a lot of information in here that most people are probably at least vaguely aware of, but it really reminded me that even though I know about why the system is bad I could still be doing a lot more to help make it better. I think it’s a great reminder of exactly what we’re contributing to when we buy stuff.Vodpod videos no longer available. from posted with vodpod